Monthly Archives: November 2014

Clubbin’ Once Again: Maine Meets Georgia

One of the beauties of the beer clubs is the chance to try breweries that you have never heard of, or at least to further explore familiar ones. Along with this, the typical club newsletter provides information on both brew and brewery. This month I met two unfamiliar breweries.

The first is D. L. Geary Brewing Company. This is listed as Maine’s first microbrewery, in production since 1986, and founded by David and Karen Geary. Production followed a two-year apprenticeship at Scottish and English breweries, including Traquair House Brewery (little known here, but I was most impressed when I tried some). With that experience it’s no wonder that the Gearys specialize in British styles.

clubGearyHSAGeary’s Hampshire Special Ale

This poured with no head, clear reddish brown, with moderate roasted barley in the nose along with caramel and a hint of hops. Nice mouthfeel, malty, then a hop-bitter character coats the palette and persists into the finish. There’s something very substantial about this beer, and it’s very satisfying when in the mood for an English bitter.

clubGearyLondonPorterGeary’s London Porter

Pours deep, deep brown with a brief light head. The nose starts with chocolate–bittersweet chocolate–and develops a slight woody note. Rich and mouthfilling, it leads with roasty barley and what must be chocolate and crystal malt. There’s a smokiness to it, especially on the finish, as if that woody note caught fire. This is another very straight-forward, very satisfying beer.

The second brewery this month is Red Brick Brewing Company, from Atlanta Georgia. The Southeast is not strong on craft brewing, but this is the oldest operational craft brewery in Georgia, opening in 1993.

clubLaughingSkullRed Brick Laughing Skull

Deep amber with a brief, light head. The nose gives a little pepper and a little smoke, almost meaty. On the palette comes a smooth light body, a touch bready. There’s a hint of citrus and the smokiness continues. It seems like there’s some crystal malt giving some sweetness. The finish continues the themes.

clubHoplantaRed Brick Hoplanta IPA

Amber with coppery highlights and a quarter-inch head. Nice nose of light, floral hops. Taste gives caramel with a hint of chocolate and a slight buttery quality, soft mouthfeel, light bitterness and malt on the finish. Bitterness starts light and gets more intense through the finish.

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Little Lagoon, Lotsa Beer

Lagunitas Brewing Company

Mark from Lagunitas came to the Growler & Gill, presented the beers and told some stories, making for an interesting tasting. The brewery was founded in 1993, exists in Petaluma CA, and has expanded to Chicago IL. According to Mark, all the beers in the tasting were from Chicago. Let me digress for a moment to a quote from

We all loved the beer but the mission was larger than the ordinary joy of a hoppy-sweet quaff. It was driven unseen by an urge to communicate with people, to find our diasporidic tribe, and to connect with other souls adrift on a culture that had lost its center and spun its inhabitants to the four winds to wander lost and bereft with a longing to re-enter the light. Beer, we have learned, has always been a good lubricant for social intercourse!

If you don’t understand what that means, clearly you need to drink more Lagunitas!

lagPILS Photo 12ozLagunitas Pils

Their recipe uses Saaz hops to be true to the original. Apparently this is one of only two of their products that use imported hops. (I forgot to ask what the other one is.) The Pils has no nose to speak of. It delivers crisp, light malt, then some bitterness comes in. Lightly fizzy. More hoppy than the typical pils, probably more Saaz hops than is traditional. Well, there is European tradition and there is Petaluma tradition. The Pils has a dry dusty finish. The website notes that it is their only lager. 6.2% ABV.

lagPale Ale Tap StickerNew DogTown Pale Ale

Yes, there really is a Dogtown, in Marin County, and there’s a light amber APA leading with a hoppy bouquet of flowers and pine. There is slight butter in the nose but this is distinctly NOT an off aroma. The flavor is hops & caramel & hops & malt, then the finish carries on the hops. Maybe this is a little one dimensional but I like it a lot. This is called “pale ale” but it is hoppier than many IPA. 6.1% ABV

IPA Photo 12ozLagunitas IPA

Pours amber with a light head. The nose is sweet with orangy hops, quite mild, with a hint of tobacco. The taste is nice honey malt with strong balanced hops. Bitterness drives finish, but with finesse, citrus and floral. 6.2% ABV

lagCTNOLA Fusion 24 Tap Sticker-01Fusion 24 Couch Trippin To New Orleans

This is a red ale with a lightly sour nose and a nice copper color. It seems “sessionable” but comes in at 5.7% ABV so some caution is advised. My palette found yeast and cracker and topped with moderate hops. It has a pleasant finish with hint of sour over malt with citrus and resin hops coming on. One-off, unfortunately, so you may not be able to find this.

Mark told the Saga of the Undercover Shutdown. Back in 2004-2005, the brewery hosted weekly parties that were apparently really excellent parties. Lagunitas supplied the beer, but it’s northern California, and some of the locals brought interesting botanicals to the party. The ABC hoped to catch the brewery selling pot and sent in undercover agents. What they found: sharing yes,selling no. Frustrated, the ABC came back on St Patrick’s Day and someone carelessly shared a massive joint with some undercover agents and was busted. The brewery was charged with operating a “Disorderly House” and could have been shut down permanently. Fortunately Lagunitas had good lawyers who didn’t smoke pot and reduced the penalty to a 20 day suspension. It’s not trivial to lose 20 days of production and distribution, but it’s survivable, so of course they produced a beer to commemorate the event. As it happens, each beer label has to be approved by the very same ABC. They did. Out of this came the Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, with the slogan: “We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.” No, it wasn’t poured tonight, more’s the pity, but the story is fun. I’ve had this in the past and it was very good, but I don’t have it at hand to review.

However, I did bring a few bottles home to continue my review.

lagLilSumpinLittle Sumpin’ Sumpin’

This pours with a frothy white head over clear light amber. The hoppy nose is on citrusy side with pine, followed by complex flavors weaving malt and hops, a nice mouthfeel and a little tingle, perhaps the Sumpin’ Sumpin’. The finish is nicely bitter. 64 IBU, 7.5% ABV

lagLilSumpinExtraLittle Sumpin’ Extra

This has less head but in a light tan, over a similar color. The nose is hoppy but much more malty than the Sumpin’ Sumpin’. In the mouth there’s smooth malt, earthy, with a hint of cream. The finish is somehow milder than its (slightly) weaker cousin. 64 IBU, 8.5% ABV.

lagMaximusMaximus IPA

This poured with a full inch of sand colored head over clear amber, quite a persistent head. Intense floral pine hop nose, with malt building in the aroma. It delivers a solid smooth hop/malt blend. It has nice mouthfeel and some caramel comes in. Bitterness sets in on the finish but surprisingly moderate. This has lots of hops but enough backbone to carry it.

Let’s wrap up with a profound quote lurking on the labels:

“Life is uncertain. Don’t sip.”

Images courtesy of Lagunitas Brewing Company.
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Lions & Bears & Brewing, Oh My!

Firestone Walker

I was off to the Growler & Gill for a weekly tasting, in happy anticipation of one of my favorite breweries. I was not disappointed!

fire_DDBA_2014Double DBA 2014 Vintage Imperial Special Bitter

Very special and even more so since it has been discontinued. Quite dark and rich. The nose gives caramel and malt, vanilla and coconut. On the palette, very distinct coconut and a sense of bourbon, then hops in balance. Vintaged, aged before release. Cellerable. Strong stuff at 12% ABV, and moderately hopped at 29 IBU.


There’s no oak involved, but the brewery is in Paso Robles, “Pass of the oaks.” This is a very clean marzen with a little something extra. German malts and noble hops, very true to the original style, with a little sweetness coming through. 5% ABV, 24 IBU

fire_2014OPAL_22oz_bottleOpal Saison

Richer and more fruity and much more hoppy than most saisons. There’s a hint of sour citrus on the palette immediately balanced by malt, but then an herbal quality comes in and a flavor I can’t quite place…maybe sourdough cracker. The yeasty nose falls between a Dubbel and a Hefeweizen, and it’s well hopped. Might be my favorite saison but so hoppy it’s almost a different style. 7.5% ABU, 35 IBU

fire_UJglassUnion Jack IPA

This is piney on nose and palette, with some citrus coming in. Fills the glass with amber and and a frothy off-white head. The resiny hops rush in on the nose with a toffee tone and a faint earthiness. It gives a creamy mouthfeel, almost foamy, with a surge of hops followed by mellow malt with even more intense piney, citrusy hops on the long finish. It beautifully laces the glass on the way down.

fire_2014DJ_22oz_bottleDouble Jack Double IPA

Yields a nice sand-colored head, 3/4″, over a pale red-gold. Nose starts moderately hopped, citrusy, and builds in power, some floral, some pine, and more citrus. Palette very hopped, but surprisingly smooth and balanced. There’s something almost chewy about it. The triple dry hopping shows throughout, I think. The finish is quite bitter but the various hops flash by and mingle. This has been one of my favorites for a long time.

After the tasting, I hit the taps for . . .

fire_Sucaba-bottle-box-2014§ucaba Barrel Aged Barley Wine

Similar profile to the Double DBA, in fact a very similar profile, with more dark fruit and more bourbon. It gives strong bourbon and oak up front with dark malt underneath. Strong coconut arrives on the palette, along with chocolate and oaky vanilla, and that dark fruit I mentioned. Lovely long caramel coconut finish. Be wary, though, it can knock you on your ass at 13.5% ABV and 42 IBU.

Pivo Pils

Back at home, I had a pint of Pivo Pils. It pours clear gold and builds nice foamy lace. As I’ve noticed before, it’s very dry with a nice malt nose and a hint of yeast. There’s a slight grassiness. It shows more hops than most pilsners and even a little pine. It’s a quiet finish but a long one centered on hops but slightly sweet.

Images courtesy of Firestone Walker Brewing
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Only in Wisconsin!

New Glarus Brewing Co.


Coming from the East Coast, I was ignorant of the good stuff in Wisconsin. These folks (Daniel & Deborah Carey) founded the brewery in 1993, so they have over 20 years experience with what they–and their customers–like. Their motto is “Drink Indigenous” and they don’t ship out of state, but if you have a friend to smuggle some out . . .

ngStaghornStaghorn Oktoberfest Beer

This pours golden amber with a momentary head. It has a nose of wine and malt and some caramel develops over time. It is a very nice marzen style with good bready malt, maybe some cracker, and a little bit of spiciness on the finish. I had five Oktoberfests last weekend, this can stand up to any of them.

ngSpottedLabelSpotted Cow

This is a cask conditioned farmhouse ale. It pours golden like the Staghorn, but a little hazy and with a brief head. It has a malty, fruity nose of figs and cherries. On the palette it gives a delicious yeasty malt with toffee and more fruit, now apricot. The finish is primarily malt with a bit of flowery hops at the end. It has an interesting grain bill with some barley and they mention a hint of corn.

ngMoonManMoon Man No Coast Pale Ale

We have West Coast IPA, East Coast IPA, and Wisconsin’s No Coast Pale Ale. Golden like the other two that I tried; they must like gold. (Someday I’ll have to try some of their fruit beers or their coffee stout, those are likely to be other colors!) This also continues the theme of minimal head on the pour. It leads with a strong malty nose leading quickly to resiny hops. The taste approaches an IPA style with hops slightly dominant over malt and a tiny caramel tone. A nice sessionable alternative to a coastal IPA.

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